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Archive: March, 2011

Thanks, Dad!

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A couple days ago, I wrote about the current battle in Hermosa Beach, California between the citizens who are against giving tattoo artists their legal right to open tattoo studios and the tattoo artists who rightfully wish to be able to open up their own businesses in the area.  As the issue continues to be debated, it’s nice to see that not every resident in and around the area is against the tattooists or that not everyone in support of the tattooists are tattooists themselves.  As a matter of fact, this letter was sent in to the Daily Breeze in defence of tattooists.  It wasn’t written by anyone in the industry, but by a proud parent of their tattooist son.

‘Like any business, tattoo shops deserve respect

I can’t believe my ears or my eyes. Hermosa Beach says “yes” to more bars that lead to public displays of drunkenness, fighting and mischief. A tattoo shop today is not a hangout but a business establishment looking to build business and clientele. Most tattoo salons now being built are well-designed and well-run companies. Live and let live. Everyone has a legal right to earn a living. If they are not successful, well then, there goes the business.

I am personally not a tattoo person, but my son is. I have come to understand his wanting body art. So be it; not everyone has to be a critic. People should learn when to understand and not jump to disagree so quickly. Try looking at the positive first, maybe the negative won’t appear that bad. Make sure it’s the finest tattoo parlor in the South Bay, and then you can have some pride.’

- Fred Fasen, Hawthorne

So take note, all you anti-tattoo, narrow minded Hermosa Beach people: above is a mature, well thought out and objective view of what a tattoo studio entails.  Perhaps if any of you anti-tattoo people took the time to meet some of the people whom you’re so frightened of coming into your precious neighbourhood, you’d learn more than a thing or two about what it means to be an artist and that the world of tattoo isn’t the frightening, violent, drug and alcohol fuelled danger that you think it is.

Open your eyes!

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Let’s Set This Straight Once and For All

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It might be too little too late, but at the very least the discussion of the need to ban the sale of DIY tattoo kits has started to hit the mainstream news.  That is, according to this article.  No doubt there’s still a long way to go, but I’m glad to know that the topic has even been brought up.  Still, there does seem to be a lot of finger pointing going on that doesn’t necessarily involves fingers being pointed in the right directions.

For example:

‘In one recent case, a 16-year-old, Levi Brady, from Cardiff, had the phrase ‘100% Welsh Lamb’ tattooed on her lower back.

Her horrified mother, Renee, said: ‘The tattooist has branded a child as a piece of meat for the rest of her life.

‘It is the most disgusting thing to have on a young girl and the location of the tattoo is grossly inappropriate.’’

Illegal: In one recent case, a 16-year-old, Levi Brady, from Cardiff, had the phrase '100% Welsh Lamb' tattooed on her lower back

I agree, that is inappropriate.  However, maybe the the teen’s mother should actually take on the responsibility of a parent and find out where here child is and what she’s doing.  People who expect the rest of society to baby-sit their child get what they deserve, as far as I’m concerned.

None the less, it is time to address this issue head on.  I’m not going to go into detail as to all the methods by which better and safer regulations can be created regarding this type of problem.  I think I’ve done that at least a few times in the past on this blog.  But what I can say is that any governing body should be able to come up with a decent solution so that any craze involving illegal, unsafe and unprofessional tattoos is eradicated.

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All Together Now

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When the March 11th earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan, the world was rendered speechless at the scale of the disaster.  Truly one of the worst natural disasters ever, it’s unbearable to watch as things continue to get worse for the people of Japan.  Having lived in Japan for several years, it was especially frightening attempting to contact my friends who had gone through the quake.  Thankfully, all of my friends in Japan are safe and sound, though many of them have frightening tales to tell.  Unfortunately, not everyone can say the same thing about friends or family in the region.

It wasn’t long after the earthquake that I realised that it probably wouldn’t be much longer before the tattoo community pitched in to help raise money for Japan.  Everywhere I looked, people were helping, be they musicians or celebrities or regular people like you and I.  The scale of aid was somewhat comforting in the face of such a terrible catastrophe.

Sure enough, tattooists have now stepped up to help in an especially far reaching fund-raising campaign called Tattooers For Japan, which was started by Canadian tattooist Dave Allen.  So far the campaign includes 30 different tattoo studios.

‘Allen hopes to raise $50,000 on his website. Some of the shops have earmarked specific groups such as Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief as beneficiaries, he says. Most of the money raised will go to the International Rescue Committee, a group founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, which is partnering with local Japanese relief groups.’

The best part of this fundraiser is that it can continue to grow as more and more people sign on to help out:

This site has been created in response to the recent natural disaster in Japan. The goal is to unite tattooers globally to show their compassion and gratitude to a country and culture that has influenced most of us artistically and personally. All of us owe a large debt of gratitude to Japan for its contribution to tattooing and the trade we are all so passionate about. The idea is for each tattooer/shop to schedule a walk in day in April with all proceeds going to relief efforts in Japan. Choose your own day, advertise to your client base and community, pick a theme if you’d like. Please invite any tattooers you know to join this effort. Join the discussion below to help decide how the money should be dispersed, via charities or through our own connections(tattooers) in Japan. Let the Japanese foundations of respect, compassion, and integrity inspire you to help!”

If you run a tattoo studio or simply tattoo at one, I highly encourage you to join up in this very important cause to help out.

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Meet Henrik Gallon!

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I don’t know what it is about tattooists from Sweden – maybe it’s got something to do with the long, dark winters or the seemingly endless daylight of summer.  Maybe during these seasons they spend their time locked away indoors, honing their skills until they’ve got things just right.  What I do know for certain however, is that lately I’ve been finding that Swedish tattooists – from Stockholm in particular – have been absolutely killing it.

My latest discovery is the work of Henrik Gallon, a tattooist who works out of the Stockholm area at Fafnir Tattoo, which by the looks of it, also seems to go by the name of Porky Royale Tattoo.  I wish I could be a lot more clear on this information, unfortunately as far as info on Gallon’s place of work as well as Gallon himself goes, it pretty much all seems to be in Swedish.  In case you haven’t already guessed, I don’t speak Swedish.

No matter though, just cruise over here and take a look at what Gallon’s capable of.  Beautiful stuff all around.  Though I do have to admit that I much prefer his black and grey work to his colour stuff, that’s not a slight against his colour work.  The man has skills and I can’t wait until he updates his blog with the promised English translations so that I can find more out about him.  Until then, I can be plenty satisfied with just looking at his art work.

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Life’s No Beach (For Tattooists) in Hermosa Beach

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Throughout this past week, I’ve been posting some updates to stories that I original wrote about several months back.  Well, I might as well continue with that method today, although the story that I have to write an update on isn’t exactly a happy one.  Not that it’s sad either, but it certainly is annoying.

In September of last year I was delighted to help spread the news that tattoo artist Johnny Anderson had won his lawsuit against the city of Hermosa Beach, California, after he was initially refused the right to open a tattoo studio within city limits.  It seemed as though the tattoo community had landed a great victory against the negative stereotypes and attitudes that typically casts tattooing in an unjust and incorrect light.

Unfortunately, given the chance, the narrow minded, bigoted views of the uninformed will often creep back into the picture.  Some residents of Hermosa Beach are now gathering themselves into a well organised and downright annoying group of do-gooders who believe that they and only they know what’s best for Hermosa Beach.

‘They’ve passed out fliers, organized on Facebook and relayed messages on Twitter. They’ve signed petitions and taken out newspaper ads. And this week, they took their fight to City Hall.

“I’m all for free speech, but this brings a certain vibe that I don’t want in our town,” said Greg Maffei, a resident living near the site of a new tattoo studio on Eighth Street and Hermosa Avenue.

“We are going to have six or seven tattoo parlors in a 2-square-mile city – and we only have two supermarkets,” Maffei said. “This is going to be a playground for the element of people that live that style. We believe that will bring problems.”‘

It’s interesting when people say that they are for a particular right or belief and then completely contradict it.  Take for example, Mr Greg Maffei, who says that he’s “all for free speech”, only to go on to say that tattoos bring a “certain vibe” that he doesn’t want in his town.  You know what that vibe that you speak of is, Mr Maffei?  It’s the free speech that you so glowingly claim to endorse.  That’s the point of free speech – it doesn’t just apply to things that you like, it also applies to things that you might not be all that crazy about.  Dealing with it is part of living in a democracy.  So quit your whinging and deal with it, you snivelling hypocrite.  It’s also worth noting that Maffei is lying when he says that Hermosa Beach is going to have six or seven tattoo parlors in a 2-square-mile city.  In fact, only three tattoo studios have been approved by the city.

City Councilman Patrick “Kit” Bobko is also opposed to tattoo studios in his city:

“We are in a precarious situation and we need to make sure we don’t drive ourselves into a worse situation,” Bobko said. “You can’t predict the outcomes … And the outcome could be something worse than what exists today.”

I particularly like this comment.  Once again, someone with a limited grasp on the reality of the situation at hand contradicts themselves.  When Bobko says that you “can’t predict the outcomes”, he’s exactly right.  Yet he goes on to offer only a negative option for what could result from allowing tattooists their right to operate a business within Hermosa Beach city limits.  If we’re going to play in the hypothetical realm of what ifs with regard to a situation that hasn’t yet occurred, then it’s also completely applicable to say that the outcome could be something absolutely brilliant and more beneficial for the community than anything it’s ever experienced before.  You do realise that, don’t you Mr Bobko?

Sheesh.  Let’s hope that the tattooists of Hermosa Beach and those who appreciate art can once again shrug off the ignorance that is being heaped upon them.

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Showing Her Funny Side

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More than being a trend or an impulsive urge to “be wild” or even a part of someone’s regular day to day existence, tattoos are supposed to make people happy.  Naturally.  Even the most gruesome, fearsome, monstrous looking tattoo was intended to fill its bearer with joy.  And so it only seems like a logical extension of this that something as simple as a tattoo could be used for the purpose of making others laugh while contributing to a great cause.

Let me explain: every March across the United Kingdom, a charity called Comic Relief is held.  I don’t want to go into every last detail of this excellent charitable event, but if you want to know more about it, you can check it out here.  At any rate, one of the best parts of Comic Relief is that people will do something potentially ridiculous and humorous and others will then be encouraged to make a cash donation and sponsor that person for their efforts.  The money accumulated from this is then added to the total Comic Relief fund.

This year a 21-year-old from Newcastle put her own spin on a method by which to raise money for charity.  Olivia Ketchell underwent 4 hours of tattooing on March 18th in order to have the portrait of her favourite comedian Stephen Fry forever inked on to her right calf.  The tattoo was done at the Cock a Snook tattoo studio (yes you read that name right) by tattooist Paul Johnson.  Though some might find the tattoo a little strange, Ketchell has no regrets.

Permanently devoted: Olivia Ketchell has had a tattoo of Stephen Fry inked on her her leg for Comic Relief

”The tattooist had done lots of portraits before and they are his favourite thing to do,’ she said.

‘He has never done a Stephen Fry one though and I think I’m the only person in the world who has a Stephen Fry tattoo.

‘I’ve been looking online and I haven’t found anyone else yet.

‘Everybody thinks I’m crazy but I couldn’t be happier.

‘It’s like I have had a baby. I always wanted him and I suffered for four-and-a-half hours and he’s finally here.

‘It’s totally worth it and I would do it again.

‘My mum said she wouldn’t donate because she doesn’t approve of tattoos, but she did in the end.’

Having so far raised more than £250 in charitable donations, Ketchell is still keeping the fundraising going.  If you’re interested in helping out with a donation, Ketchell’s fundraising page is open for donations until the end of the month.

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Tattoo + Beer = Happiness

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Last summer, I wrote about the lads from Scottish brewery BrewDog.  At the time, the media was reporting that they were going to be offering free beer for life to anyone who had the BrewDog logo tattooed during the grand opening of the BrewDog Bar in Aberdeen, Scotland.  The offer set off alarm bells amongst Alcohol Focus Scotland, a national charity group that works to limit the amount of damage caused by alcohol.  Unsurprisingly, the announcement of free beer for life also made many, many Scottish beer drinkers extremely happy.

Well, it wasn’t to be.  Possibly due to the flack that they were receiving, BrewDog announced soon afterward that the media was responsible for distorting the truth (imagine that!) and that they wouldn’t in fact be giving away free beer for life to anyone who had the BrewDog logo tattooed.  You can read the full press release by BrewDog here.

None the less, there was an offer on the table by BrewDog, albeit a much different one than initially reported.  Recently, twenty-year-old Robert Hanson became the first to be tattooed with the BrewDog logo.  Instead of free beer for life, he will now be permitted a 20 percent discount on all BrewDog beer at a new BrewDog pub opened in Edinburgh.  The tattoo was not free either, it cost Hanson nearly £100 ($163 USD), but Hanson’s got no regrets:

‘”I didn’t get it done for the discount, that was just a perk.

“It cost nearly £100 but it’s worth it.

“My mates think it’s a pretty funny thing to do and that I’m some kind of obsessive, but I reckon they’re all just jealous.

“My parents are probably just as obsessed with BrewDog as I am. The first thing my mum said when I told her about the tattoo was ‘I might get one of those myself’. My parents are real ale drinkers and helped me to appreciate beer.”‘

Now that’s a beer drinker.  Enjoy your brews and your tattoo, Robert!

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The Overrated Celebrity Curse

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It’s funny what some good press can do.  It’s also funny how some people go about choosing the artist who will tattoo them.  With the rise in popularity of tattoo, people everywhere began to find their place in line to be inked.  Unfortunately, for a lot of these people, getting tattooed simply meant finding out which artist tattooed their favourite celebrity and then seeking out that particular artist.

Now, I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes here, after all, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.  It’s just that the opinions of celebrities always seem to carry an unbelievable – if not very often unjustified – weight to them.  As more and more celebrities get tattooed and flash their work to the public, the artists who tattooed them are finding themselves in the spotlight.  This can be a good thing for the artist, but it can also be a case of celebrity status for artists who quite frankly, don’t really deserve it.

What I mean by this is that simply because a celebrity decided to go with one particular artist over another doesn’t mean that that artist is god.  A perfect example of this is UK tattooist Louis Molloy.  Molloy is the man behind David Beckham’s tattoos.  As a result of tattooing one of football’s biggest celebrities, Molloy has been in huge demand.  He’s booked solid six months in advance and stars in the London Ink TV series, the spin off of the Miami Ink and LA Ink shows.  In addition to these things, Molloy is also designing a line of street wear for Marks and Spencer.

The issue?  Call me crazy, but Molloy’s work is average at best.  I don’t mean average amongst all tattooists, I mean average amongst high profile tattooists.  It seems more than a little unjust to me that someone like Molloy rakes in the media and cash and adoration for his work when there are massive amounts of other relatively unknown and hugely talented tattooists out there, quietly going about their work.  Naturally I can understand how many if not all of these artists don’t care about being where Louis Molloy is, but it’s slightly irksome that tattooists like Louis Molloy become household names simply because they were fortunate enough to impress a celebrity with their work.

But, when all is said and done, I guess that’s life.  My advice to anyone who is considering a tattoo because a specific celebrity got one done is not to do it.  Get a tattoo, but find an artist whose work you enjoy.  If you’re going to dish out the huge bucks to get tattooed by a high profile artist, take a look at who is out there because all too often the best artists are the ones who aren’t getting the celebrity clients and relentless media attention.

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Meet Calle!

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One thing that I’ve learned from writing this blog and going through portfolio after portfolio is that there is no being on the fence when it comes to spotting the work of a really excellent tattoo artist.  What I mean by this is that I’ve looked at too many portfolios where maybe I like some of the work that I see, while more of it might just leaving me feeling flat.  I don’t want to sound like a dick here, but there are a lot of tattooists out there whose work makes me feel like this.  Sometimes this goes on for quite a while – portfolio after portfolio of the same kind of thing.  And then, I find an artist’s portfolio that makes me remember what it feels like when I come across someone who is truly in command of their art form.  There are no maybes.  Every tattoo jumps off the screen at me and leaves me wanting more.  I don’t have to keep searching through the portfolio hoping to catch a glimpse of something that I like.  Everything that I see is very much what I like.

Which brings me to this week’s featured tattooist, Calle.  Calle can be found tattooing in Stockholm, Sweden at his studio, King Carlos Tattoo, which he opened for business in 2002.  An art school graduate, Calle’s roots go back to graffiti.  In fact, it was through an old friend from his graffiti days that Calle got his first bit of work in a real tattoo studio.

Today Calle tattoos only when he is interested in taking on a project and King Carlos Tattoo is primarily a custom tattoo studio.  His style is exactly what you would expect from this calibre of tattooist – and far more.  Despite the work in his portfolio being so perfectly done, it’s actually hard for me to look at.  It just reminds me of how far away from Stockholm I am and how little money that I have to actually get an artist like Calle to tattoo me!  But hey, that doesn’t change the fact that Calle does gorgeous work that deserves to be ogled by everyone who appreciates great art, be they broke-ass mofos like myself or not.

Lastly, look for Calle and the King Carlos crew at this year’s 1st annual Scottish Tattoo Convention, to be held from March 26th-27th in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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Weekend in Scranton

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As far as city names go, I like the name Scranton.  I’ve never been to Scranton, I’m not even sure exactly where it is.  I mean, I know it’s in Pennsylvania, but that’s about it.  It’s fun to say Scranton.  Say it.  Say it right now out loud to yourself.  Even if you’re at work and you’ll look like a nut for doing it, do it.  Go on, I dare you.  Nice, right?

Well that’s not all that’s nice about Scranton, my friends.  Judging from this little piece of news, the fine folks of Scranton are about to have themselves a tattoo convention this weekend.  The Electric City Tattoo Convention will take place starting this Friday, March 18th to Sunday, March 20th at the Hilton Scranton and Conference Center.

‘Organized by the owners and partners of Electric City Tattoo Gallery on Spruce Street, including Woody Wodock, Elijah Birtel and brothers Nick and Mike Frenchko, the weekend festival will celebrate the art of permanent ink, with a little help from some friends.

“We have 80 artists from as far away as California, Chicago, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia,” Mr. Wodock rattled off. Numerous local artists will be on hand as well, including representatives from Triple 6 Tattoo Studio, Vision Burn Tattoo, 570 Tattooing Co. and Marc’s Tattooing, among many others.’

Along with the usual tattooing goodness that any good tattoo convention promises, The Electric City Tattoo Convention has got some stuff lined up that I’m not so familiar with, stuff like a pie-eating contest and a hula hoop contest.  What, no mud wrestling?  Oh well.  There will also be a large canvas hung on the wall of the convention center, which the artists in attendance will decorate.  Live music, raffles – this thing is no doubt shaping up to be pretty cool.

Along with the usual tattooing goodness that any good tattoo convention promises, The Electric City Tattoo Convention has got some stuff lined up that I’m not so familiar with, stuff like a pie-eating contest and a hula hoop contest.  What, no mud wrestling?  Oh well.  There will also be a large canvas hung on the wall of the convention center, which the artists in attendance will decorate.  Live music, raffles – this thing is no doubt shaping up to be pretty cool.

So why not head out to Scranton this weekend if you’re close enough to do so?  It sounds like it’s all going to be a good time.  A single day pass will cost you $15, a two day pass $25 and a weekend pass is $40.  For more information, visit the convention’s website here.

SCRANTON!

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